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Artist Concept Eyes of Argus Panoptes
In Greek mythology, Argus Panoptes or Argos, guardian of the heifer-nymph Io and son of Arestor, was a primordial giant whose epithet, "Panoptes", "all-seeing", led to his being described with multiple, often one hundred, eyes. The epithet Panoptes was applied to the Titan of the Sun, Helios, and was taken up as an epithet by Zeus, Zeus Panoptes. "In a way," Walter Burkert observes, "the power and order of Argos the city are embodied in Argos the neatherd, lord of the herd and lord of the land, whose name itself is the name of the land."
The epithet Panoptes, reflecting his mythic role, set by Hera as a very effective watchman of Io, was described in a fragment of a lost poem Aigimios, attributed to Hesiod; And set a watcher upon her, great and strong Argos, who with four eyes looks every way. And the goddess stirred in him unwearying strength: sleep never fell upon his eyes; but he kept sure watch always.
In the 5th century and later, Argus' wakeful alertness was explained for an increasingly literal culture as his having so many eyes that only a few of the eyes would sleep at a time: there were always eyes still awake. In the 2nd century CE Pausanias noted at Argos, in the temple of Zeus Larissaios, an archaic image of Zeus with a third eye in the center of his forehead, allegedly Priam's Zeus Herkeios purloined from Troy. According to Ovid, to commemorate her faithful watchman, Hera had the hundred eyes of Argus preserved forever, in a peacock's tail.
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Argus dozes off: Velasquez renders the theme of stealth and murder in modern dress, 1659 (Prado)
Argus was Hera's servant.
His great service to the Olympian pantheon was to slay the chthonic serpent-legged monster Echidna as she slept in her cave. Hera's defining task for Argus was to guard the white heifer Io from Zeus, keeping her chained to the sacred olive tree at the Argive Heraion. She charged him to "Tether this cow safely to an olive-tree at Nemea". Hera knew that the heifer was in reality Io, one of the many nymphs Zeus was coupling with to establish a new order.
To free Io, Zeus had Argus slain by Hermes. Hermes, disguised as a shepherd, first put all of Argus's eyes asleep with spoken charms, then slew him by hitting him with a stone, the first stain of bloodshed among the new generation of gods.
The myth makes the closest connection of Argos, the neatherd, with the bull. In the Library of pseudo-Apollodorus, "Argos killed the bull that ravaged Arcadia, then clothed himself in its skin."
The sacrifice of Argos liberated Io and allowed her to wander the earth, although tormented by a gadfly, sent by Hera.
Hera, equivalently, in Ionic and Homer) was the wife and one of three sisters of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon of Greek mythology and religion. Her chief function was as the goddess of women and marriage. Her counterpart in the religion of ancient Rome was Juno. The cow and the peacock were sacred to her. Hera's mother was Rhea and her father Cronus.
Portrayed as majestic and solemn, often enthroned, and crowned with the polos (a high cylindrical crown worn by several of the Great Goddesses), Hera may bear a pomegranate in her hand, emblem of fertile blood and death and a substitute for the narcotic capsule of the opium poppy.
A scholar of Greek mythology Walter Burkert writes in Greek Religion, "Nevertheless, there are memories of an earlier aniconic representation, as a pillar in Argos and as a plank in Samos."
Hera was known for her jealous and vengeful nature, most notably against Zeus's lovers and offspring, but also against mortals who crossed her, such as Pelias. Paris offended her by choosing Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess, earning Hera's hatred.
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